2016 Mazda MX-5 2.0L review – potential owner’s views
We asked a bunch of car owners to spend the day playing with the new 2016 Mazda MX-5, here’s what they had to say…
In a nutshell: The MX-5 always has, and still does epitomise the very spirit of lightweight, carefree open-topped motoring.
2016 MAZDA MX-5 ND 2.0-LITRE ROADSTER GT manual
PRICE from $37,550 (plus ORC) as tested $42,637.93 ONROAD; WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY Euro NCAP 4-StAR (ANCAP TO COME); ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol Power 118 kW @ 6000 rpm Torque 200 Nm @ 4800 rpm; TRANSMISSION six-speed manual; BODY 3.92m (L); 1.74m (W); 1.23m (H); WEIGHT 1033 kg (manual roadster); THIRST 6.9L/100km (95 RON premium unleaded, combined)
The base model is the Roadster, and this is the top-spec GT (read more on the differences in our full review). This car has two additions to the standard GT trim; the bodykit ($2,657.93 fitted), and what you can’t see are interior mats ($160). Together with black alloy wheels (not fitted to our test car) the bodykit forms the Kuroi Sports Pack ($3,931.61 fitted).
Given the initial review covered the car pretty comprehensively we decided to see what a few car enthusiasts thought of Mazda’s new roadster:
Ralph – Morgan V8 owner
Ralph took the car up, down and around some of his favourite tight’n’twisty back roads, and was an immediate convert saying the car was “lot of fun”, “easy to drive, forgiving”. He was impressed with the engine, noting that there was “amazing torque for a two-litre, did well in sixth to lug up hills”. The praise continued with “great balance”, “comfort not bad, good suspension, and little noise” (note – this test did not involve freeway cruising). Ralph was also a fan of the “amazing clutch and gearshift” and very much seemed to be enjoying himself on the drive.
So it was a surprise when he said the MX-5 was “not a sportscar” – by which he means his 860kg, V8-powered Morgan is a sportscar and the MX-5 doesn’t come close to it. I see the point but disagree, and if we measure the ratio of smile to face on Ralph’s dial then his body may disagree with his mouth!
Other comments included the exhaust being “a bit lame”, the car was deemed “nice, sexy, not a girlie car” and he noted the “roof was very easy to operate”. Anything to improve? “Would like a digital speedometer” was about it, and what he liked best was “the fun, very enjoyable drive”. In summary, Ralph reckons that “Mazda is on a winner”.
Read more about Morgans here.
Peter W – sold an 86 and 911 for a Golf R
Peter said the MX-5 “makes me feel 20 years younger”, and it “was his dream car at uni”. He reckons that “being in a convertible is special”, and in the MX-5 there’s “a long bonnet, you can see wheelarches, you can feel the road without looking and that’s what a sportscar should be about.” Peter says the MX-5 has “really good handling, and a great suspension with a balance between damping and firmness”. So impressed was Peter he began to get a dreamy look in his eyes and waxed poetic, talking about a “heavenly gearshift” and “creamy engine”, noting “when you wring it out it does not have any harshness”, and ending his reverie with “nirvana”.
Peter is also a fan of the styling saying it’s “beautiful, love the looks. It’s got the modern curvy aggressive look” and appreciates the “high quality interior”. Coming from an 86 he was “delightfully surprised it had auto wipers and auto lights” too.
In contrast to Ralph he reckons the “exhaust was sporty enough” and when asked for an improvement point said “that’s a tough one” and drifted into a reverential silence. An easier question was what he liked best and that was “how it made me feel, the MX-5 gave me a feeling of freedom, youth and fun.”
In an unrelated note apparently there are three well-behaved children up for adoption now, and can be delivered in a new Golf R.
Juliette – BRZ owner and Japanese car lover
The MX-5 is a surprising package. A fun, yet liveable toy car. I say this purely for lack of passenger and storage space, because otherwise it would be a completely useable daily driver for anyone with access to something bigger when people or gear need to be transported. The ride is remarkably compliant. I was expecting a harsh ride being a small Japanese sportscar, in keeping with the way proper Japanese sportscars (not luxury tourers) are sprung and dampered. But the MX-5 rides well over rough, corrugated and uneven roads which I know to upset my own BRZ. No bone-jarring thumps, bump-steer or annoying rattles. The ride is comfortable without compromising the handling too adversely, even if the initial shock of the larger than expected amount of body roll takes you by surprise. Personally I’d prefer a bit less body roll and be comfortable with sacrificing some bump absorbance but after a while it lends the car its own dash of character and personality. The reason I found it so noticeable on drives is the angle at which the beautiful flared front fenders stare out over the bonnet pointed ever more skyward the more aggressive the turn really pronouncing the lean.
The engine may not be the most powerful in its class but it feels plenty quick enough at road legal speeds with excellent gear ratios and immediate acceleration. Giving the throttle a squeeze in any gear is a pleasure and the sensation of speed is really intensified by the combination of low ride height, close gears and immediate throttle response. The clutch and shifter operation are just perfect – you could not want for any better combination. The clutch is easy and light, the gearbox incredibly precise. It’s very difficult to mis-shift; every gear is just a short, precise, quick, very mechanical-feeling throw away.
I felt the ‘soft padding’ on the centre area wasn’t quite soft enough to rest my elbow on constantly. I did struggle with the pedal placement in sneakers and found the accelerator and brake to be a little too close together for my preference. Maybe some thinner-soled shoes may have helped the situation. There’s a bit of a lip in the foot well which the back of the sole of my sneakers tended to get caught on as well – not ideal. Pre-emptive shoe choice might be a consideration for some drivers. I also felt that the footrest sat a little too close to the clutch.
The seats themselves are great, nice and supportive, with a surprising and pleasing touch to have the speakers in the integrated headrests. Where they fall over is lack of adjustability. I had no issues fitting into the car at 5ft 8in tall but even then with the limited adjustment options I never got myself into a completely comfortable driving position, particularly on longer drives. Maybe more time spent adjusting the seats would have paid off, but I elected to leave it alone after 5 minutes of trying to make myself as comfortable as I am in the BRZ. The steering wheel is only tilt adjustable which isn’t a problem for me but may be for other drivers.
Visibility isn’t great. The mirrors are small, very little can be seen out of the rear window with the roof up but slightly better with the roof down although you’re still contending with the headrests and roll protection obscuring much of your rear view. Being seated so low doesn’t help either, and I would opt-in the reversing camera accessory if I was purchasing the car. The dials on the instrument cluster are reasonably easy to read but a digital speedo in addition to the analogue would have been nice. The infotainment unit isn’t great – I don’t enjoy anything that requires me to look down and away from the screen itself to operate multiple dials and buttons for multiple functions. It also doesn’t stow away and sits permanently fixed on the top of the dash. I otherwise ignored it once radio and Bluetooth functions were set up. I like the dials and buttons for HVAC controls – the way it should be – less distractions as a driver.
Onto the styling and I think Mazda have made a great looking car. I’m not sold on the rear end, I don’t feel it has the same edgy styling as the remainder of the car but it might be something in time that I warm to. The headlights are really distinctive, you cannot miss a new MX-5 coming up behind you in traffic and it makes the car look quite menacing. The interior is beautiful too. A feeling of sportiness with class, and the body coloured panels atop the interior door panels really set it off.
Would I buy one given what I currently drive? That’s really hard to answer, and there’d only be a few small things holding me back. Firstly – value for money, that’s where the BRZ/86 wins the upper hand with superior practicality, and what I feel is slightly better handling. Otherwise it is a car I could get into every day, knowing that it’d put a smile on my face every drive.
(The above text needs to be in BOLD, UNDERLINE, and ITALICIZED). It really puts a smile on your dial!
Best $40k (yep, I’d go for the full package) fun car purchase on the market – by far.
#1: Fantastic gearbox. Rifle bolt precision, no doubt about which gear you’re in, well spaced gears (the weight loss program also helps).
#2: Great handling – absorbs bumps really well. Handles like I remember the NA handling :-))
#3: Great engine (sounds good, pulls hard, looks great).
#1: That lump: On the LHS of the driver’s foot well, there is a large intrusion into the foot well. I’m guessing the car was probably designed as a LHD car.
#2: The handbrake lever: My left knee constantly fouling the handbrake.
#4: That display: The multifunction display needs to be able to be folded away – it spoils the look and frankly, I wouldn’t use the damn thing.
Overall, a better car than either of the two NAs and the NB that I enjoyed owning from 1994 to 2006. I do however genuinely think that there is ever-so-slightly less room in the cockpit… I’m talking minimal difference. The driver’s seat should be able to drop an additional cm or so, the steering wheel should be able to be adjusted up an additional cm or so.
The boot, although deeper, also doesn’t look as large as I remember from the NA and NB. All this is minor though.
Living with the MX-5 for a week: Robert Pepper
We’ve already covered the MX-5 in detail during the launch, so this is a view on the car as a daily driver:
A car launch is usually a hurried affair, so it’s good to spend some quality time with a car in your driveway.
The MX-5 is very much a usable daily-drive sportscar, provided all you want to do is move yourself. It is very agile, nippy, small and easy to maneuver, making every drive a delight. It is true fun on public roads at low speeds in ways that more powerful, faster, heavier cars cannot possibly match.
The soft suspension deals very well with speedbumps and driveways, it’s not too low so it scrapes everywhere, the interior design is premium enough to be enjoyable and make you feel like you’re driving something special. The soft-top roof is very easy to flick up and down too, easily operated by the passenger or the driver.
Yet the MX-5 is compromised as a practical car, but this isn’t really a criticism, because it’s a tiny and light convertible and that means it can’t be good at everything. But you do need to know what you’re letting yourself in for.
First up is space. There’s no glovebox, a tiny centre storage compartment that is too small for a modern phone, and no door pockets. There is a centre lockable cubby box behind the seats, but that’s hard to get to. In it you could store a few small items – phones, booklets and the like and even sunglasses, because there’s nowhere else to stash the sunnies, especially if they’re in a case. There’s limited room behind the seats for long thin items. One hidden area for storage, sort of, is the shelf area behind the seats just under the rear window, but that disappears when the top is down and you can’t secure anything there.
The boot is tiny too, wouldn’t take a week’s heavy shopping for two people with occasional visitors, and especially not if you’re loading up with a slab or a case of wine. Not that you’ll mind extra trips in the MX-5.
The next issue is also size related. I am 182cm tall (6 feet) and that is about as tall as you want to be if you will own an MX-5. The steering wheel is not reach-adjustable, and the seat is not height-adjustable – there is a dial, but that just changes the height of the front part of the seat only. You cannot recline the seats very far back either. As it is, I find the gearshift just a little bit too close to me, and the top of a windscreen should ideally be a bit further away. And, I cannot wear a helmet inside the MX-5 as I simply don’t fit.
So here’s the summary – the MX-5 is a truly delightful little car that will deliver you pleasure every time you look at it let alone drive it, be that on a lazy Sunday morning errand to the shops or pulse-quickening thrills on the backroads. Just be aware that the small size doesn’t come without compromise.
- Mazda MX-5 2.0L review
- Mazda MX-5 1.5L review
- Mazda MX-5 vs Toyota 86 vs Ford Mustang
- Why the MX-5’s soft suspension doesn’t matter, and what’s missing in the power debate